Week 549

Sunday, 30th June, 2019

A warm morning. It is exactly 12 months since we were spending a month in the Dordogne and it didn’t rain in Sussex at all and our luscious lawn died completely. We took the drastic step of completely reseeding it in late September and, 8 months later it is back and even better than before. With an extended period of dry, warm weather on the forecast, I am taking the precaution of watering and feeding it regularly. It is certainly rewarding me for my diligence.

We have now done two harvests of our herbs – Basil (already converted into Pesto portions), Oregano, Thyme, Sage, Tarragon and the cut-&-come-again Lettuce Leaves and Rocket are harvested most days. Cherry tomatoes have set and are fruiting well; bell peppers are flowering and will, hopefully, fruit very soon.

Hydrangea Collection

In the front garden, the hydrangeas are beginning to come into bloom. We grew these in Yorkshire but the Sussex climate is something different all together. So many shrubs that just survived in Yorkshire absolutely thrive in Sussex. However, having spent a large part of our married life taking gardening very seriously with quite large gardens, it is nice now to just keep our environment neat and attractive without spending huge sums of money and doing major landscaping.

Monday, 1st July, 2019

Happy July 2019. Enjoy it because you will never see it again. It has started off warm and sunny. Breakfast with the patio doors open and the aroma of fresh grass and tomato pollen wafting in to the kitchen.

It is 3 months now since we used the central heating at all other than the hot water tank being heated for an hour in the morning and again in the evening. I’ve lived in shorts and tee-shirt for the past 3 months although not the same ones, I hasten to add. I haven’t slept under the sheets for the past fortnight and we do almost all our cooking outside at the moment.

The thing about British weather is that it rarely gets excessively hot and, down here, it rarely gets excessively cold. It is the stereotypical Temperate Climate. This time last year, we were living in a Gite (without air conditioning) in the Dordogne. It was warm – hot even. If it had been this year, we would have been melting in 40C+ temperature. I think we are getting a bit old for that.

We ‘managed’ a considerable number of heatwaves in Greece including one, notable occasion in Piraeus when we went shopping for building materials in 44C/111F as we searched the store yards of Leroy Merlin. I was also very overweight and thought I was going to die. Kathimerini is reporting 

a heat wave with temperatures reaching up to 41C/106F is forecast to strike Greece in the upcoming weak. Temperatures will rise as of Monday, July 1st, and remain high until at least Friday, July 5th 2019. 

Rather them than us.

Tuesday, 2nd July, 2019

Today is a wonderful day. Blue skies, strong sun and a convoy of BT Openreach vans outside our house.

BT Openreach delivering delirium.

BT Openreach??? My first panicky thought was, “Am I going to lose my connection today?” I marched out to confront them. “Good morning, Sir, we are here to deliver fibre connection direct to your doors.

We had received no warning of this although I did start to make a fuss about our download speed last year. I pay for superfast fibre to the cabinet which is said to deliver 42 mbps download speed. Of course, as our development brought extra demands for connections, the contention rate went up and the download speed went down. This morning, I am receiving 31 mbps download and 11mbps upload. When the fibre connection direct to my door is fed through, I could be receiving 1000 mbps download feeds – more than 30x faster than now. It is almost too fast to imagine!

Wednesday, 3rd July, 2019

When you’re retired, every day is a free day. Today is bright, clear blue sky and sun reaching 25C/77F. Quite delightful without being painful. We were up at 6.30 am and out at 8.30 am to our local (3 mins drive) PYO farm.

In 60 mins, we picked 5kgs of black currants and 5 kgs of strawberries. Pauline will make jam later today.

Jam Today!

…. and here it is. Strawberry on the left and Blackcurrant on the right. Raspberry will come later in the week.

Thursday, 4th July, 2019

Gorgeously sunny day that reached 26C/79F. Thursday is shopping day and we visited Tesco, Sainsbury, Aldi and Morrison between 9.00 am – 11.00 am. By the time we got home, a number of our plants in pots outside were wilting in the heat. A good drink revived them and then it was off to the Health Club.

This year, our Health Club subscription costs £1824.00/€2033.00 for the year. In the past 3 months I have missed just 8 days. Attending 76 times each costing us £6.00 /€6.70 for the two of us. To be fair to our club, they are prepared to plough that money back in to development.

Renovated Changing Rooms
Restaurant going out to the Pool

We have recently had a major renovation of the showers and changing facilities. The gym is constantly being refreshed with new apparatus and the restaurant is a thriving facility which is progressive and innovative. All of this is just as well considering how much time we spend there. Even so, many others see the facilities akin to a social meeting place whereas Pauline and I use it merely as somewhere to exercise and do not linger outside that.

Friday, 5th July, 2019

A warm morning – 19C/66F by 8.30 am – which has started sunny but quickly clouded over. The forecast is for the clouds to sweep away by 10.00 am and the temperature to reach 26C/79F at peak. The orders of the morning for me are cleaning the car and mowing and watering the lawns. Pauline is making the next batch of jam. Looks like we will be picking raspberries next week now and jamming subsequently.

On this day last year, we were in Limeuil which is situated at the confluence of the rivers Dordogne and Vézère in the middle of a month away in a gite near Bergerac and on this day two years ago, we were in a Hotel in Lyon as we drove through France to Italy. In recent years our cars windscreens were decorated with (annual – £30.00/€33.50 Swiss vignettes (road tax) and in the past 2 years our windscreen has featured the French Crit’Air which certifies the ‘green’ credentials of our car. We have changed model of car and have had to buy a new Crit’Air. It only costs £3.78/€4.21 including postage from France but it avoids a £61.00/€68.00 fine one can receive if caught without it.

As we were leaving Greece in 2014, it was becoming obvious that the looming crisis was ushering in major, political change. Alexis Tsipras and his left wing coalition party – Syriza – were eventually elected and have successfully managed to keep Greece in the EU against the odds but something the huge majority of Greeks wanted. However, the General Election will be held on Sunday and a scion of the Greek, political aristocracy, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, leader of Nea Demokratia – a centre right party – will ride the time-for-a-change wave and be elected to take on the country’s next stage of recovery. Mitsotakis has pedigree – his father, Konstantinos, was PM in the early 1990s and his sister, Dora Bakoyannis, was Foreign minister in the 2000s. For a country which abolished its monarchy, it is more dominated by familial political classes than UK.

Saturday, 6th July, 2019

Bed at midnight last night. Awake at 6.00 am this morning and up at 6.30 am. By 8.00 am, I was cleaning the car while Pauline was cleaning the house. By 9.30 am, we were on the road to Surrey. We were going to visit P&C at M&K’s house. The temperature was warm and sunny culminating in 26C/79F. We stayed from 11.oo am – 2.30 pm and then drove home. The journey each way was a delight. The traffic was always going in the opposite direction. Towards the coast in the morning as we were driving away and away from the coast in the afternoon as we were driving home.

According to recent research reported in Greek newspapers today, tourism to Greece is showing a marked downturn this year. Reduced air arrival data, an average decline in hotel occupancy of 24% year-on-year with lower occupancy rates and reduced prices coupled with 31% of owners expecting a 20% drop throughout the year. These figures will put the new Prime Minister under pressure. The main reasons for this pressure on Greek tourism are to be found in the economic slowdown seen in many countries from which Greece has traditionally drawn visitors, as well as the special case of Britain with a possible Brexit.

Week 548

Sunday, 23rd June, 2019

A humid day that is reading 25C/77F at 1.00 pm. Cleaned the car of dead flies from our trip to France. The ‘new car’ finish rejected all water and left globules of water running over the surface.

We have a 10-year paintwork warranty and a full pack of wax/shampoo/tyre-dresser/leather treatment comes with it. We have a customer-care kit with two bottles of each treatment. Although I suspect this doesn’t happen any more, in the early days and I mean in the 1980s we were actually reproached by the Honda Dealership for delivering a dirty car for service. They implied that we were letting the exclusivity of the marque down. Consequently, we always valet our car before we take it into the Dealership.

Guilt-Trip Kit

 Of course, we have so much more time now to look after the car. One of the interesting things we noticed in the first week is the tank capacity. Although it is a hybrid, it is mainly run on Unleaded petrol. In previous, models, a full tank would report maximum 320 miles available. As soon as we filled this one, it reported 650 miles available in the tank. Quite mind blowing after 20 years of really poor consumption figures..

Back to the Health Club today. Amazing how hard it is to get back into it after a week away. Still, we did it and felt better for pushing ourselves in spite of the hurt. Incredibly humid evening – still 26C/79F at 7.30 pm. We’ve been talking about having a bedroom fan installed since we moved in but we suspect the ceiling is too low to fit it safely. This suggests we are going to have to look at air-conditioning instead. We will see how this week pans out with high temperatures forecast for a number of nights.

Monday, 24th June, 2019

Strange day of grey humidity and warmth. We reached 25C/77F and had isolated huge spots of rain which didn’t develop. It is, however, perfect growing weather. The potted peppers and tomatoes are all flowering and I am confident of their fertilisation in this weather. The figs are really ‘figging’ and we really look forward to a good crop this year.


We did our Health Club exercise routine and then settled down to start our new project of transferring camcorder tapes into digital format so that I can have a winter project of editing them in a memory bank which can we stored in the cloud. I was going to do this myself and, about 10 years ago, I bought a tape to CD machine to have a retirement project. It has remained in a box in the loft for all this time as I’ve got on with my life. Now, I’ve decided to ask a professional firm to do this for me. I’ve found a company based near Ripon in North Yorkshire who only charge £10.99 per tape. Mind you, I have got quite a lot of tapes but it is much cheaper than I expected.

Tuesday, 25th June, 2019

A very humid day which topped 26C/79F but felt much warmer. We spent the morning involved in revolutionary activity – we were tidying the garage – before deciding it was far too hot for the gym and settling back to enjoy the afternoon outside in the garden. Delighted to find the potted cherry tomatoes already setting fruit. Looking forward to eating them. Pauline will make a second batch of Pesto for the freezer tomorrow as the Basil grows enormously.

Our Video Camera records go back to 29 years.

We seem to have 20 video camera tapes with the earliest of 1990. Many are records of our time in Sifnos but we were shocked to find that, 27 years ago, we went to Cyprus for Easter fortnight, Andros for Whit Week and Sifnos in the Summer. Anyway, it will cost us £10.99/€1.30 per tape to digitise and £8.00/€9.00 per stick to store. The total will be about £400.00/€450.00. When everything is stored in digital form, I can spend the darker winter months editing them to make useable records of our younger days and storing them in the cloud.

Wednesday, 26th June, 2019

A hot and humid day only reaching 26C/79F but feeling much warmer. We did some work on our shrubbery beds for an hour or so and Pauline made ginger biscuits. All happily domestic stuff. We did our Health Club routine although the gym was hot and sweaty in spite of being air-conditioned.

I was surprised to find that I was featured in the report of the Northern newspaper – The York Press – which was featuring a University of York & St. John’s Honarary Degree ceremony for hundreds of teachers who qualified pre-1980 at Ripon Training College & St John’s York Training College. For months, alumni of those colleges have been getting excited about the event and preparing to meet up again. I have not.

If you’re unsure – I’m the pretty one with the wigwam hair.

I have no memory of this at all. I love watching cricket but have no talent at playing it. Actually, having worked so hard for my degrees, I am ambivalent about honorary ones being sprayed around but, I suppose, it is the way things are going. It has obviously made these old people happy and who would deny them that? I’ve subsequently been informed that this photograph is framed and on the wall in the foyer of York University. As I told my fellow students, if I’d known, I’d have Photoshopped my hair into less of a wigwam.

Thursday, 27th June, 2019

It was 35 years ago that we bought our first, brand new Honda car. It was an Accord. We were so delighted with the brand that we have stayed with it through some 20+ new cars including a large number of Preludes and CRVs. The current model is our 13th CRV. It was purchased in West Sussex but, for most of our time, we were served by one Dealership in West Yorkshire and one salesman, Chris Woods, who became a personal friend.

From the beginning, every Honda car we bought was metallic silver. We insisted on it. When we bought our first, CRV in August, 1997, we went mad and chose metallic ORANGE. We thought our first Sports Utility Vehicle suited a ‘whacky’ colour and orange seemed appropriate. It was the first vehicle in which we had satellite navigation and the first in which we had charging points which would allow the ‘fridge’ and ‘shower’ to be plugged in. The fridge was really an electric cool-box and the shower was a tank of water with a shower head attached  and powered by an electrical pump. It was intended for those who were beach lovers and wanted to shower clean before driving home.

A 22 year old ‘fridge’.

Two months ago in West Yorkshire, our salesman friend, Chris, finally retired from Honda. A month later, we took delivery of our latest, metallic silver CRV from a West Sussex dealership. Today, we took our 22-year old ‘fridge’ cool-box to the waste disposal tip because we have replaced it with a real Fridge with twice the capacity and temperature capability and a contemporary manufacturer. I contacted Chris with this photograph and news, telling him that the cool-box he sold us in 1997 had finally expired.

I am so hopelessly sentimental that I find myself quite moved by the loss of those times with their associated objects and friendships. Although my current life is wonderful, there is something melancholic about the loss of the time that can never be recovered. Although it is not in the same league, it is almost akin to that desperate desire to meet again a lost love, a deep and significant relationship. And all sparked by the death of a 22 year old ‘fridge’.

Friday, 28th June, 2019

Once again, we haven’t got that Friday feeling. We have been free all day to follow our fancies. We went out fairly early to go to a shop about 5 mins drive away down Sea Road. Pauline was collecting delivery of a new pair of trainers at a ‘Drop-off’ shop. Sea Road leads to …. the sea. We drove on and walked on the edge of the beach for a few minutes. At 9.30 in the morning even on a hot and sunny one as this, the beach was fairly quiet. It was 25C/77F at 9.30 am but we peaked at 29C/84F by late afternoon.

Beauty on the Beach

On the way back, we stopped off at Currys-PCWorld to look at new Condenser Tumble Dryers. If you are a Blog follower, you will have read about our dispute with Hoover-Candy over their illegal warranty conditions. We have beaten them down until the point where, although not admitting liability in terms, they are admitting liability in actions by offering us a complete refund for our 10-month-old machine. We looked at alternatives on-line and went to look at it in the metal.

Not a Hoover/Candy

By the time we arrived in the ‘superstore’, it was about 10.00 am. It was totally devoid of customers although about 5 or 6 sales staff stood around and looked at us hopefully as we walked through the door. We had their undivided attention and, within 5 minutes had agreed for them to deliver and install a new machine and remove and dispose of the old machine in a few days time – all at no cost. Now I will pursue the manufacturers over their illegal policy. I will not be doing this for ourselves but for those who come after us.

Hoover-Candy have clearly designed and built a machine that has a serious design flaw. They offer a 10-year parts warranty but excludes an integral part of a condenser dryer – the container for the water that is condensed. It fits in the door and gets – surprise, surprise – very hot. So far, so predictable. However, it’s made of plastic which cracks under heat. Bit of a problem you might think. We have gone through two in 10 months. The company say it is not covered by their 10-year parts warranty because customers have to empty it themselves. They have arbitrarily designated it a ‘consumable’ part and, therefore, not guaranteed it even though the customer is not told of this when they buy. This clearly breaks consumer law under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and I will be pursuing that with the company’s management.

Saturday, 29th June, 2019

A hot and humid day that reached 29C/85F and stayed there for a large part of the day. There was a time when we would have sat under the sun for an extended period developing the body beautiful. It is too late for that now. Actually, we worked outside for most of the morning – I cut, fed and watered the lawns. I also enjoyed using my new, cordless strimmer to do all the edges. Pauline cut back the Basil plants and made two, more packs of Pesto. She was using Purple Basil and sweet, green Genovese Basil. They are both certainly enjoying our back garden. This is the second harvest and we expect two or three more cuttings.

A walk in a cool wood on a hot evening.

It has been quite unpleasantly warm in our gym recently in spite of the air-conditioning. At the end of our exercise routine, I have lost so much water that I’ve been feeling a bit fragile over the past couple of sessions. It is so warm today that we decided to give it a miss and go for a walk around our development instead this evening. It just confirms what a lovely place we’ve come to live in.

Week 547

Sunday, 16th June, 2019

There are times that one must be grateful for one’s own life. I constantly reflect on how lucky I am. Pauline says, Not Lucky. We worked hard for this. I suppose she’s right but events constantly underline my view. I was reminded of this by three occurrences this morning: a posting on Facebook, an article in the Sunday Observer and a reminder from my on-line calendar.

A girl who we taught some 30 years ago posted on Facebook this morning that she was feeling depressed. She lives, of all places, in Derby and worked for Rolls-Royce. She has a good job and enjoys it. She has a happy marriage and a young child. Ostensibly, she has little to be depressed about and yet we know that her early life and experiences created in her a residual depression that can never be fully expunged. What a dreadful legacy for a vivacious and energetic young woman!

I was reading an article about the projections for the newish, automatic enrolment pensions which the government forced on employers. They run the risk of retiring on a pension of far less than £15,000.00/€16,800.00 per year, the equivalent of the current national living wage. That’s bad enough but, what struck me even more forcefully was the quoted average national wage before tax is £27,500 and I realised how fortunate we are. Our pension income, after tax, is much greater than double the average national wage before tax. Yes, we did work hard for it but many people out there work just as hard without the same rewards.

You can’t beat homemade Pest.

Of course, life is not made happy by money. It helps and lack of it can be very depressing. My on-line calendar reminded me that tomorrow will mark the 39th anniversary of an horrific car accident that almost took our lives away. The things we’ve done in the last 39 years  …. more of that tomorrow. (Sorry!) …. Today, we made our first pesto of the season. Even in this relatively cool and damp June, our basil plants are thriving. Glossy, green and juicy leaves when combined with good olive oil, ground cashew nuts, garlic, and lemon juice produce the most wonderfully sweet-tasting, verdant pesto. If you’ve only ever eaten commercially produced pesto, you’ve never known the real thing. They are poles apart.

Monday, 17th June, 2019

A surprisingly lovely day reaching 22C/70F with lots of sunshine. We drove to Rustington at 9.00 am for Pauline’s hairdressers’ appointment and my date with Waitrose Coffee Shop.  

Waitrose Coffee Shop, Rustington

We returned to sit in the garden sunshine with our coffee and decided we had too many jobs to fit in so cancelled our trip to the health Club. Even so, I easily completed my 10,000 paces by mowing the lawns, watering all the plants and hoovering the house.

Today is the day, 39 years on from our car accident. I spent a fortnight in hospital with brain bruising and the best part of 12 months convalescing. So many exciting things have happened to us since that time and we will never forget our good luck. Every succeeding day is a joy not least more than 10 years of ‘playing out’ in retirement.  And tomorrow – France with all the fun that will entail.

Tuesday, 18th June, 2019

Up early on a lovely, warm morning, drink, pack the car, set the automatic lights and off to the Channel Tunnel. Travellers have to be checked in at least 45 mins before driving on to the train so has to be factored in to the trip time. I know that Brexit Security checks have also caused some longer delays so our mindset is already prepared for that too. Fortunately, we have no real deadline today. Check-in at our hotel in Coquelles is not until 2.00 pm so things are relaxed. We have our newspapers downloaded and every thing prepared for a wait. Let’s go!

….. No delays at the Tunnel but plenty of slowing roadworks en route. We were even offered an earlier train but declined. The drive was our first, lengthy drive and it really was a sharp learning curve. Driving with ACC and ILA switched on was akin to a sitting in a driverless car. Adaptive Cruise Control allows one to set a cruising speed but leave the car to adjust that speed according to traffic in front. This feature speeds up and slows down the car according to circumstances. Intelligent Lane Assist and Blind Spot Warning combine to keep the car within the white lines and warn of anything over or undertaking. This actually guides the steering wheel, unless the driver overrides it, and keeps it within the lines which is a slightly unnerving experience at 70 mph on the motorway.

Breakfast was running round the carpark,

As we drove in to the hotel grounds and carpark, we were greeted by a ‘flock’ (??) Of newborn (hatched) chicks that ran towards Pauline – obviously recognising her maternal qualities. We had specified which suite we wanted and were duly shown up to it. The evening was interesting as we watched the bonkers Tory Party hustings which was followed, quite appropriately, by a massive thunder storm with flashes of lightning, crashes of booming thunder and a roar of torrential rain. Shakespeare would certainly have approved. He may, even now, have staged it.

Wednesday, 19th June, 2019

We thought France, mid-June, new car, no set times or dates, just freedom. We’ll drive down the coast with the sunroof open and the sun beating down on our heads, highlighting and warming the beaches ….. We’ve woken to more thunder and rain from dark skies. We’ve eaten a little breakfast and are now settling down with coffee and newspapers, Radio4 Today followed by Sky’s All Out Politics before we set out into the world. It might have stopped raining by then.

…….. it has and the sun is out, shining from blue skies. the temperature has reached 24C/75F. We drove down the coast to Wissant and walked in the warm sunshine. Quite delightful!

Wissant Beach – Dutch ‘Wit Zand’ / English ‘White Sand’

We’ve been here many times before but hadn’t learnt of the Wissant School of Painters featured on the cliff.

The Wissant School of Painters

It has been a lovely, gentle day of sunshine, walking and I’ve learned something new about the car. For years, as we’ve driven into Europe, Radio 4 reception has faded. We’ve switched to the decreasingly usable Long Wave until Switzerland or Southern France has blanked us out completely. Now, Smartphone connectivity has allowed us to access radio over internet and put it straight through our car radio. It has changed life completely.

Thursday, 20th June, 2019

The morning started grey but, like yesterday, quickly turned warm and sunny with delightful blue sky and bright light. We had a leisurely start to the day. Radio 4 Today from my iPad at ECT 7.00 am (GMT 6.00 am) with a cup of Yorkshire tea. Down for Breakfast before 8.00 am and back for coffee and Sky’s All Out Politics for an hour until 10.00 am. Out into the delightfully warm sunshine.

We took the A16 down the coast through Sangatte, Wimereux, Boulogne, Neufchatel, Le Touquet and then inland to Montreuil-sur-Mer. It is both much the same as so many small, French towns and yet delightful in its provincial charm. We drove down lots of narrow, cobbled streets banked on either side by tall, 3-4 storey 18th/19th century buildings. This is the origin of Les Misérables and it shows. We parked up on the cobbled, market square at the town centre.

Miserable Chocolates

My usual way of getting to know a new place is to sit and eat and drink while watching the world go by. I’m afraid that approach has long gone which is a pity because these French, provincial towns are just full of eating and drinking places advertising everything I’m not allowed to have. So it was that we set out on foot to walk around and look and smell but not touch.

Jean Valjean was Mayor here.

One can immediately understand the ‘metalled’ footwear of the past because walking for long on cobbled streets becomes excruciating. If you wanted a symbol of European sentiment and unity, this last scene pictured below, shouted it out to Brits feeling sensitive about their host’s view of them.

A moving symbol of Unity.

We drove back to the hotel in the afternoon to find out about the Tory, It’s a Knockout competition and then went out shopping in Cité Europe. The sunshine had lasted and improved throughout the day and into the evening. Our meal was smoked salmon salad instead of all those calorific offerings shrieking out at us in the town centre. End of a lovely day.

Friday, 21st June, 2019

Beautiful morning to open the Summer Solstice. We are actually making the longest day even longer by leaving France at 1.00 pm and arriving in UK at 12.35 pm.

Our hotel grounds in Coquelles.

We left our hotel at 9.30 am and drove down to Carrefour Hypermarket where we plundered the fresh fruit & vegetables mountain. Such wonderful choice and quality at this time of the year.

You can’t beat 40 varieties of tomatoes – guaranteed for taste and freshness!
Bottom right – Fennel bulbs the size of footballs.

The fishmonger had a huge 3 kilo chunk of swordfish (Trois kilos d’espadon) costing €40.00/£36.00 which will do for a couple of weeks and is so difficult to source in UK at the moment.

Espadon – 3Kg of swordfish to be sliced into steaks & griddled

We drove back to the Tunnel Sous La Manche and checked in for a train one hour earlier than intended. Leaving at 12.15 pm, we arrived in Folkestone at 11.50 am thus making the Longest Day even longer than usual.

Saturday, 22nd June, 2019

Lovely, warm and sunny day. We decided to do some supermarket shopping followed by garden jobs. I mowed the lawns and we re-potted the Bell Peppers into bigger pots with a wigwam support of canes. We cut back the sage and Oregano plants for use in the kitchen. Pauline washed, spun and chopped them for the freezer. The cherry tomatoes are in full flower so they were fed and watered. The Rocket was ready for cutting again and we had that for our meal.

Delonix Regia – The Flamboyant Tree

A couple of weeks ago, I featured a tree that we found in Tenerife. I brought some seeds back and sowed them recently. Well, today they are starting to show their true natures with secondary leaves opening like their parent tree. Soon, I will have to pot them up and take them outside to see if they can survive a Sussex Winter.

Week 546

Sunday, 9th June, 2019

For years we’ve bought new, Honda cars. Generally, we’ve ordered them one week and picked them up next. Not this time. We have had about 12, new CRVs in the past 20 years and we’ve been waiting for the latest upgrade model – a Hybrid, All-Wheel drive, Continuous Variable Transmission, Automatic vehicle which obviates the need for gears. It is a step change improvement on previous models.

This model features Adaptive Cruise Control which, if you use cruise control as we do most of the time, is a fantastic improvement. There is nothing worse than setting Cruise Control to the speed limit and then finding a vehicle in front doing a much slower speed. This innovation allows the car to slow down and speed up  according to what’s in front. There is an ‘intelligent speed limiter’ facility which allows one to stick within prescribed speed limits without breaking the law.

Milan Ring Road – an absolute delight!

There is a facility called ‘Low speed following’ which allows one to set the car to auto when in a slow, queue of traffic. It slows down and stops as the traffic in front dictates and then starts up and accelerates away as the traffic in front allows. That is just the sort of facility that would be useful on the Milano Ring Road.

Often we would hit the Milano Ring Road after 10 or so hours of driving through the night and we were at our lowest ebb. My co-pilot would be at her calmest and I would be pinning my eyelids open. Another innovation – ‘Lane Departure Warning’ would have been very helpful here as would ‘Traffic Sign Recognition System’ which reads road conditions and automatically adjusts the car’s systems to meet those demands. 

Monday, 10th June, 2019

Wet, wet, wet! It was grey and heavy rain. We looked like spending the morning indoors. We received a phone call from Honda to say that our new car was arriving some 6 weeks early on a transporter this morning. We drove down to the dealership and arrived just as our car was rolling off the carrier on to the forecourt. £40, 000.00/€45,000.00 worth of car can look pretty ordinary slicked with protective wax, wrapped in plastic sheeting and in need of pre-delivery preparation.

We had to do the paperwork immediately to transfer our ‘cherished number plate’ that we’ve had since 1997. I bought it for £250.00/€280.00 back then and it is now worth some £12,000.00/€13,500.00 which is rather nice. The new car will be ready by Thursday or Friday so I’ve got to rather hurriedly shift rather a lot of cash from an Investment account in one bank to our Current account in another bank to the Honda dealership’s account in another bank. It used to be done through bits of paper called ‘cheques’ or Bankers’ Drafts in the old days. Now it is done electronically and, however confident one is with the process, moving huge amounts of cash through the ether is a little nerve wracking. The good thing about it is that it can happen almost instantly.

That done, we were able to enjoy the rest of the day by putting in a couple of hours at the Health Club. Home to chicken and salad for our meal and to jeer at the lunacy of the Tory Leadership contest. This country is going to hell in a handcart! At least we will have a new car to drive away in.

Tuesday, 11th June, 2019

Après nous, le deluge! Yesterday was a washout in some regions. Actually, we go off lightly and, this morning, the day opened clear and sunny. We had sun all day and reached 24C/75F as we left the Health Club.

This morning we had to go to our ‘local’ bank branch to do an ‘official’ bank transfer to pay for the new car. Apparently, we are nor allowed to transfer a sum as large as we needed from our home computer through on-line banking. I don’t know how often you go to a bank branch. We haven’t been for about a year. Actually, our home branch is in Oldham which tells you how often we use it. We went in to Rustington which is 2.5 miles away.


One of the things about where we live is that nowhere is far away especially if you have a car. The money was transferred, the receipt confirmed and the car will be ready in a couple of days. We drove home and spent a couple of hours in the glorious weather mowing the lawns, trimming the hedges and generally tidying up. It was delightful and satisfying.

A couple of weeks ago, I featured a tree we found in Tenerife 6 months ago and from which we took seeds. I sowed them in two pots. The first were soaked in boiling water for 24 hrs and the second were not. This morning, those soaked in boiling water had germinated and the others had not. Delonix Regia or ‘The Flamboyant Tree’ is a gorgeous, red-flowering tree of the Med..  We’ll see if it survives in Sussex.

Wednesday, 12th June, 2019

I have never been seriously concerned about climate change and, I must admit, I am not now. I have no children and, as I approach 70 years old, I do not worry too much about the children of the future. Certainly, I am not prepared to turn the clock back on current standards and advances in order to produce a future world of which I will not be a part. As ever, the world will innovate to confront the demands of the world’s climate.

We are told that, although driving, sailing and flying has revolutionised our ability to travel across the globe, we must stop driving, sailing and flying because of threats to the climate. We are told that, although humankind has been a meat eating species for as long as we know, now our meat eating must be curbed/stopped to save the planet. Science is already producing ‘Test Tube Meat’ and plant-based meat substitutes. We are told that fossil fuels which our planet has in abundance should be eschewed because their exploitation is dangerous to the planet’s existence.

I do not support any of those choices per se. Amusingly, however, I find myself falling in to a number of those decisions by accident out of self-interest. I have hardly eaten any red meat for 2 – 3 years. I almost entirely eat fish and chicken. This has absolutely nothing to do with climate change but is almost accidental and an alteration of choice. I have just ordered a  self-charging, Hybrid car. It has absolutely nothing to do with climate change but provided me with fuel consumption which more than doubles the economy of my current model.

Carnival cruise ship

The anomalies in the climate change analysis are fascinating. I read an article today which said, Carnival cruise ships produce more sulphur oxide than all Europe’s cars in total. The solution is blindingly obvious – ban all cruising. It doesn’t appeal to me. The thought of being cooped up on a ship for more than a day fills me with dread (sorry Richard). Even so, science will arrive at electrically powered planes, ships, cars, everything and the power will be stored in massive batteries sourced from renewable energy and humankind will look back on these problems and laugh just as we do about early attempts of men to fly. What we shouldn’t be doing is denying ourselves the benefits of progress in order to salve our consciences about the future generations.

Thursday, 13th June, 2019

Last night we heard torrential rain for about 30 mins. We woke to sunshine and a very clean, fresh world. Our garden was certainly grateful for the drink. The paperwork for our new car – transfer of our ‘cherished number plate’ to our new car and the transfer of registration of our current car to our dealership arrived this morning. We also had to contact our insurers to ensure that our new car would be covered from the time we took it over at 5.00 pm tomorrow. 

We decided that we would have a short break in France with the new car. That done, we chose to enjoy the rest of the day by not going to the Health Club but planning a short trip away. We will book a suite in our favourite hotel in Coquelles and go out for day trips along the coast during the days.

Lunch in Honfleur? Could be worse!

Wimereux, Bolougne, Le Touquet, Berk-sur Mer, Dieppe, Honfleur, Deauville all provide interesting stopping off points for lunch or dinner and a stroll.  It will be lovely to put the new car through its paces while we enjoy the coastline next week.

Friday, 14th June, 2019

Quite a demanding day. The weather has been pleasant plenty of sunshine and 20C/68F. We did some more gardening this morning – finishing hedges, mowing lawns, potting up plants and harvesting some herbs. It’s amazing how long these jobs take.

We received confirmation of 3 nights in a suite at our favourite hotel in Coquelles. We booked return Tunnel crossings immediately so everything is arranged for next week. Out on Tuesday morning and return Friday evening. Next, although we are tired from the morning’s work, we decided to go to the Health Club because our bodies regretted not doing the exercise routine yesterday.

Home for a quick meal and then out to Honda for the new car. It was already out on the forecourt when we arrived. The old car is just 3 years old and has done 22,672 miles/36,487 kilometres including a trip around Europe last summer.. We have enjoyed driving it. Admittedly, the fuel consumption is poor. We are driving an automatic with the air-conditioning permanently on. We drive mainly short journeys and average 22mpg/35.5kpg of unleaded.

Old (2016) CRV

As you can see, the new car is totally different but looks almost identical. Actually, although this is our 13th new CRV and 4th new model, the latest one is incredibly updated.

New (2019) CRV

Just one, small detail illustrates this modernisation. All our CRVs have been automatics. The early ones had dashboard-mounted gear sticks. Later ones went to the more conventional shift arrangement. The gearing was always one of their pleasures, climbing and descending smoothly and almost seamlessly. We drove almost continuously on ‘speed control’ in order to avoid breaking the law.

The new model has the speed limit projected at eyelevel on the windscreen for the driver to see along with the car’s current speed. It features an ‘intelligent speed limiter’ function which reads the road signs and regulates the car’s speed accordingly. You can, of course, over ride it but why would you – unless you are a boy racer and my days are gone on that score. The new car also has no gears at all. The drive is CVT or Continuously Variable Transmission, also known as a shiftless transmission or stepless transmission. It has no gear stick of any sort. Everything is done via electric buttons/switches. Now that does need some getting used to.

The gears are replaced by switches.

Because a lot of the work is done by an electrically powered engine, it is almost silent. This is particularly true at slow, starting speeds. We are reliably informed that our old 22mpg/35.5kpg will suddenly become 52mpg/84kpg which will be nice.

Saturday, 15th June, 2019

The day started off beautifully but has turned gently damp. It is only 18C/65F which is poor for mid-June but feels quite pleasant. I must just wish my little brother, Bob, happy retirement. He’s only 67 and very healthy so let’s hope he’s got a lot more mountains to climb yet. If he enjoys it half as much as me, he will be a happy chap!

I apologise in advance that my Blog entry is once again dominated by the new car but I have definitely realised that I have so much to learn and understand before we go away on Tuesday. There is so much on-board information and so many settings to adjust. It has taken me all morning just to scratch the surface.

Blind Spot Information System.

There are those, of course, who say just drive and all will become clear but I love gadgetry and I want to squeeze the maximum amount of pleasure from this machine. After all, we never know how many more there will be for us to enjoy.

Head-up Display screen rises in front of steering wheel.

When we press the start button, a symbol lights up in the wing mirrors to tell us that the radar sensors are switched on to warn of vehicles in our blind spot when overtaking. Excellent. I’ve always wanted this although I haven’t quite got to grips with the parameters within which it operates. I’m sure I will. The other element I’ve been acclimatising to this morning is the Head-Up-Display which emerges from the dashboard as the engine starts. It’s one of those things you don’t know you need until you have it and then realise it is actually indespensible.

Tried out the ‘Intelligent, Adaptive Cruise Control as we drove to the Health Club this afternoon. It is cruise control but with a refinement which copes with traffic in front that slow one down. The car reads the speed of the car in front and adjusts its speed and following distance automatically. Slight problem this afternoon as we drove down the High Street of our village, encountered a badly parked car and found ourselves being harshly braked to avoid hitting it by the automatic system. This is quite a steep learning curve. I will be sleeping with the handbook for the next couple of nights before we set off for France.

Week 545

Sunday, 2nd June, 2019

Yesterday we reached 25C/77F and today was just 22C/70F. Even so, it’s been a lovely weekend. An annoying string of events on the timeline, however, was the series of problems with four items of apparatus. My bean-to-cup coffee maker sprang a leak. It is 3 years old and out of warranty. My pressure washer has started playing up with problems connecting and disengaging the lances. It is still in warranty. My iPad has suddenly started closing down without reason. It cost me about £1000.00 about 3 years ago and is out of warranty. Our condenser/tumble dryer, sited in the Laundry, has suddenly started leaking from the water container which collects the condensation. It is 9 months old.

It’s amazing how these things happen. Built in obsolescence is definitely a problem in our increasingly technological age but the tumble dryer was bought from Hoover via Currys has a 1 yr parts & labour warranty plus another 9 years parts warranty. Confidently, we phoned the Helpline only to be told that the slot-in container which collects condensation is not covered by even a 12 month warranty. They offered three solutions. We could buy a new one ourselves. We could go back to Currys and demand a whole new machine. Their final solution was we could immediately buy from them an extended warranty which would mean the water container would be replaced  for free.

I wonder how many people fall for that. They must think we are barmy. When we pointed out that we were sold the machine with a 12 months parts & labour + 9 extra years parts only warranty and that, under the Consumer Rights Act (2015), they were obliged to honour that agreement, the operative went away to consult his Manager and came back to tell us that the decision was to send a replacement part ‘free of charge’ as a ‘goodwill gesture’. By this stage, I had my own goodwill gesture for him. What the ‘helpful’ warranty/service department don’t realise is that these are the sorts of dodgy dealings that I relish addressing ….. but they will.

Monday, 3rd June, 2019

This morning opened on the 5th item to break down as I cleaned the Juicer after my morning orange juice. Separating the base of the jug from the blades of our Bosch, a locking lug snapped off rendering it useless. we’re on such a losing run that I’m keeping tight hold of all my body parts in case something falls off this week.

My tirade via Twitter and email against Hoover has already brought a jittery response. My contact with Karcher likewise. My coffee maker seems to have cleared its own leak at the moment and my iPad will have to be replaced shortly after 3 years of almost constant use.

My wife and I receive a State Pension of about £1,100.00/€1,240.00 every 4 weeks or £14,300.00/€16,110.00 per year all after tax. I can’t imagine what it would be like to live on that pittance. Fortunately, we can treat it as an extra bonus that goes into a savings investment but many have just that to live on. The European Union want the UK to bring State Pensions increasingly into line with the more generous (realistic) member nations. This is how they treat their citizens:

Imagine being a widow pensioner with no occupational pension having to survive on £550.00/€620.00 over 4 weeks or £137.50/€155.00 per week particularly if you don’t own your own house. I know there are supplementary payments but few could really make life liveable at that subsistence level. When a your pension falls below that of Mexico and Chile, you know it is time to do something – and Brexit is not it.

Tuesday, 4th June, 2019

Time has always been an obsession of mine. I think it came from my inability to train my memory. I feel the need to reinforce facts about my life continually in case they disappear into the mists of time. I build a memory board to constantly refer to. These fragments I have shored against my ruins … My on-line calendar stores and repeats events back to me over the years. For example, I know already that a week on Monday – June 17th – will be the 39th anniversary of the most horrific event that has ever happened to Pauline & I. Known as The Great Car Crash, it reminds me that I could have been dead since 1980, at the age of 29, and missed so many wonderful experiences with, hopefully, many more to come.

I was prompted to write about this again by a news report this morning about the battle for Tiananmen Square which was 30 years ago today. I was just 38. Absolutely flabbergasting! I find myself falling into old man’s clichés like: I can see it as clearly as if it was yesterday.

Tank Man in Tiananmen Square – June 4th, 1989

The trouble is that I can and you only have to think about the events of your own life over the past 30 years to realise that distance with some shock. It is important for me to use events like this as a metric for my own existence and, quite fortuitously, I received an item in my newsfeed this morning which recorded the fact that the Beatles split as a group 50 years ago this summer.

End of the Beatles – Summer 1969

I was 18 and about to leave home, go to College and begin the great adventure of life. I was starting out on learning to be a person in my own right. Three years later, as we were leaving College, my girlfriend found herself pregnant and had an abortion. I reflect now, not with sadness but just as an understanding of the metric of time that I could now have a son aged 47. I am genuinely grateful that I don’t and that my life took a different turn

Wednesday, 5th June, 2019

It is only 10 years ago this week that we put our Yorkshire home up for sale. Only 10 years ago this week! We had just retired from teaching and were planning our future. We were back home from Easter in our Greek house on Sifnos and were intending to move south to Surrey.

We were scurrying round, smartening it up in readiness for valuation and marketing. As one does in this situation, we hoped the house would sell in a week and we would be moving out soon after. In the event, not a single buyer came to view the house for 12 months during the downturn and, when they did a year later, we were least expecting it.

Actually, we received a phone call from the Estate Agent as we drove through Italy between Parma and Modena to tell us that a viewing was going to taken place and all the negotiations were done via Skype from our island house. Not only did we agree a sale of the house but all the furniture as well which was a boon. For a few years, I rather missed the familiar backdrop of the Yorkshire / Lancashire moors but that has faded into the mists of time. I wouldn’t go back to live. Life is so much easier in Sussex.

Thursday, 6th June, 2019

Quarry Court Garden – June 2010

Just one year on from yesterday’s memory and 9 years ago this week, we had flown home temporarily from Greece to tie up the sale of our house in Quarry Court, Huddersfield. We left our Greek house to look after itself for a month with our car in the garage and the garden serviced by an automatic watering system.

We were in our final 4 weeks of our Yorkshire home. We had sold it with most of its furniture but, after 10 years living there, much was left to clear out. We had to hire a car to get around. We got that from Enterprise in Woking. I still receive emails from them 9 years on.

We had nowhere to live when we got home from Greece in October. The remainder of our goods and chattels were taken away to storage. The money from the house sale was arranged to be transferred into three, separate Banks for safety and we set off for Manchester airport. At that point, things started to go wrong. Our solicitor informed us that there had been a ‘technical hitch’ in our buyers’ solicitors office. We panicked. We had just cancelled all the house services including the insurance and would be in the air for about 4 hours.

The moment we got to Athens airport, Pauline had to phone the insurers to extend our house insurance for a couple of days until the buyers sorted out their problems. I can still feel the stress of that time. However, we did it and moved ahead. Only 9 years ago and so much water under the bridge. I really do wonder how many more exciting experiences we’ve got to have by 2018.

Friday, 7th June, 2019

Glorious start to the day – RAIN. We have forgotten what it looked like. The lawns are jumping with joy. It has come the day after our area was suggesting that water controls/hosepipe bans may well be necessary this summer because the Winter has been so dry.  

I started the week listing a number of relatively young machines which were already breaking down. I have spent quite a lot of time addressing these problems. Particularly, our Hoover Condenser Tumble Dryer is only 9 months old and the company was trying to wriggle out of its responsibility. When we phoned the ‘Warranty Department’ in Bolton they tried to say that the company had designated the ‘water container cassette’ as a consumable item and not as a machine part covered by the 1 year Parts & Labour Guarantee and that we would need to purchase a replacement or we could take out additional insurance from them which would cover the part. Lastly, they said we could go back to the retailer, Currys/PCWorld and demand a new machine.

As soon as we baulked at these suggestions and pointed out their illegality under the Consumer Rights Act (2015), the Warranty Department decided that we would be provided with a replacement part ‘as a gesture of good will’. That was like a red rag to a bull. I immediately wrote in very strong terms on Twitter and by email to the company’s management pointing out the weakness of their position. This morning a replacement part arrived by post from Milan. Hoover is owned by Candy which is based in Italy. What is important to note is that the company’s policy was to evade their commercial/legal responsibility and it is possible/probable that less articulate, determined, time-poor customers would have been browbeaten into coughing up extra money.

Contrast this with Karcher who received one, short email from me and informed me yesterday that they were despatching a complete replacement by return. It arrived this morning by Parcelforce. Warning to companies – Beware pensioners with half a brain and access to social media!

Saturday, 8th June, 2019

A busy day of strong winds and some rain although warm. We visited Asda, Sainsburys and Morrisons which are all in our locality. Delighted to find that swordfish is back on sale after quite a long period without it. We love griddled swordfish steaks and bought a joint for future use.

Hoover/Candy have contacted me and offered us a chance to return our 9 month old Condenser-Tumble Dryer in exchange for a new one. It is something we may take up although it is hard to see that it will be much improved because the principle parts are the same.

I was reading my Blog from 5 years ago – the summer that we sold our Greek house. On this day, we finished clearing our garden of the Winter weeds which is a far bigger job than it sounds and we ate a meal of roast leg of pork. Pork was always my favourite meat and particularly crackling.

However, that really isn’t what struck me. It is that we haven’t eaten any meat apart from chicken and duck for such a long time – perhaps a couple of years or so – that pork appears as a weird concept. Unusually, as we walked through Sainsburys today, we talked about pork spare ribs. We even hovered over them in the meat aisle and then decided that it was a step too far.

After our daily gym & swim, our meal today was a timbale of crabmeat, some smoked mackerel and smoked salmon accompanied by a green salad and a tomato salad. Get behind me meat! I’m not a Tory cabinet minister feeling the need to confess to drug taking – something which seems to be all the rage.